When you and your ex-spouse cannot decide about the custody of your child or children after the divorce or legal separation, the best option is to apply for a child arrangement order. For this matter, you need a good solicitor by your side to defend your case. Child arrangement orders are granted by the court to guarantee that the living arrangement of the children is for their best interests.
What is a child arrangement order?
The child arrangement order is the new umbrella name of the Residence & Contact Orders. The court decides whether the child would spend equal time with his parents or live with one of them. If one of the parents becomes the primary custodian of the child, the child arrangement order will stipulate where and when the non-custodial parent can contact him along with other crucial matters that affect his well-being.
Who can apply?
Aside from the biological father or mother of the child, anyone with parental responsibility can apply for child arrangement orders. The following people are eligible to apply but need to secure court permission first.
- A guardian or special guardian
- A responsible adult with parental responsibility for the child or who lives in the same house for 3 years and above.
- An adult holding a Residence Order or a “living with” order for the child.
- A non-biological parent who becomes the child’s parent through marriage or civil partnership.
- Any person who has gained permission from any of the above.
What is the process of seeking a child arrangement order?
First, you need to agree to mediation and settle the matter out of court. It is compulsory and begins with a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. A trained mediator will attempt to help you resolve the issue. If the first meeting is not successful, one or more sessions can be arranged. However, if the dispute remains unresolved, the mediator can recommend getting a child arrangement order.
After one of you applies for a child arrangement order, the Judge or the Magistrates will schedule a ‘direction’ hearing and mediate between you and your ex-partner. Ideally, a decision or agreement should be made during this period. If there is none, the Judge will schedule one or more hearings. These new hearings may entail calling witnesses, filing witness statements, or filing more evidence. Also, a representative of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is appointed to relay the child’s point of view and serve as the court’s independent advisor. This person has the right to make an objective recommendation for the court to make a decision. After reviewing all the pieces of evidence and filed statements, the Judge will make a decision and grant the order during the final hearing.
The court decision of granting child arrangement orders is always based on the best interests of the child, knowing that the order will change the circumstances of the current living arrangement. The court order also specifies a certain number of conditions to protect the welfare and safety of the child.